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Indianapolis airport boardings hit 10-year low

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If you thought Indianapolis International Airport didn’t seem as busy in 2012 and that tickets were pricier, you’d be correct.

Passenger boardings fell by 2.2 percent last year, to 3.68 million, assistant treasurer Marsha Stone told airport board members on Friday. That’s a low not seen since 2003, according to airport records.

And it was nearly 6 percent less than what officials had projected for 2012.

Boardings at the airport peaked in 2005, at 4.26 million.

“We continue to be challenged by falling enplanements like every other airport in the country,” said Michael Wells, airport board president.

The authority is still tallying 2012 financial data, but with fewer passengers, the airport receives less in the way of income from concessions and parking.

Airlines also are using fewer planes, which reduces landing-fee income for airports. Airline mergers have resulted in fewer flights being offered at certain airports. And that reduced aircraft capacity has left remaining flights packed to the gills.

Airport board veteran Wells said he has never seen airlines so disciplined for so long—referring to aircraft utilization rates and ticket pricing.

Such trends have sent fares skyrocketing. The average fare from Indianapolis International in mid-2012 was $391, compared with $367 in mid-2011, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s up substantially from $279 in the same period of 2009.

Fares for certain routes, such as New York, have been especially painful. Wells said the authority will look for ways to improve competition to such destinations. In the current airline environment, there’s often little an airport can do, however.

Changes in the industry brought by mergers and the economic slowdown came at an especially bad time for Indianapolis International. The new terminal opened in 2008, just as the slowdown hit.

Wells said the authority intends to continue its focus on cost reductions and ways to grow revenue.

Wells, president of real estate development firm REI Real Estate Services LLC, suggested that the airport might even lease some of its own offices at the midfield terminal to private parties while moving airport staff to less expensive space.

In coming weeks, the airport will unveil a revamped parking operation intended to boost parking revenue and fend off off-airport parking options. Among the changes to make airport parking more attractive will be more frequent shuttle busses to remote lots. The airport also is looking at ways to generate more money from its higher-rate, $100 million parking garage.

Longer-term goals include trying to protect revenues generated from the airport’s aircraft maintenance base. It was built in the mid-1990s for United Airlines, which later abandoned it.

After several years of sitting vacant, the airport managed to land Chicago aircraft repair company AAR Corp. It also leased repair space to Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings.

AAR’s current lease agreement ends in about two years and the Authority has begun efforts to reach a new agreement that will retain AAR. The cavernous facility was built to accommodate United’s fleet when times were good, but that the facility is costly to maintain.

Wells said the airport isn’t in the business of subsidizing maintenance operators, but needs to find ways to reduce costs to make sure AAR stays put.

“To the extent we can reduce expenses, it helps everybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, the airport board Friday approved a contract for demolition this year of the old passenger terminal complex.  

The airport is trying to expedite the demolition to make it easier to entice new users to the land. The authority has had discussions with several prospective tenants. “We’ve had some pretty good interest,” Wells said.

With direct airfield access, the old terminal would be ideal for such uses as an air cargo facility.

On the upside, cargo flow at the airport—mostly flights operated from the FedEx regional hub—rose 2.6 percent in 2012.

FedEx operates its second-largest U.S. hub here, and landing fees it generates help mitigate the effects of fewer passengers.

Meanwhile, airport officials said they’ve added electric outlets and USB recharging ports in passenger waiting areas, as a way to increase convenience for passengers.

Airport director Bob Duncan noted that it’s not been uncommon to see passengers scrambling to find outlets—sometimes sprawling out on the floor next to an outlet to power a computer or recharge a wireless device.

The new outlets and charging ports are being installed between seats in several gate areas. Look for glowing blue lights on the lower half of seats.

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  • Freq Traveler
    I'll not address the comments by the trolls, as they as illogical as they are predictable. I fly frequently for work and stage my travel from either Chicago or Indy (my company has offices in both). My experience has been that it's cheaper to fly from Indy and connect to my final destination than to fly direct from Chicago. This includes situations in which I connect through Chicago. I know it's less expensive to fly out of Indy than Cincy, which is well documented and accepted. The new terminal is fantastic and security is a breeze compared to most airports. Again, compared to most airports, the roads leading to the Indy airport are convenient and fast, with ample parking across several price points. The Airport Authority does not control the routes flown, that's up to the airlines. And the Authority has very little to say with regards to prices, as landing fees are a small portion of the total price. Indy is a fantastic City with a fantastic airport.
  • Heh
    The new soccer team will help with traffic at the airport.
  • Subsidized empty planes
    @Nach: Comments like yours amaze me. Introduce flights to Europe? Do you not have a clue as to how this works? There are no flights to Europe because there is no demand for flights to Europe. You're suggesting that government subsidize empty planes. Please move somewhere else. I am tired of government spending my hard earned money so we can all pretend that Indianapolis is a real city. Chicago's 3 hours. You can fly anywhere your little heart desires from ORD.
  • Noplace
    Just another boondoggle courtesy of leaders with a serious inferiority complex. Thank you, guys and gals, for saddling us with ever more debt. PS: Nobody wants to come here. Really.
  • Cincinnati?
    Funny, I thought people in Cincinnati drove to Indianapolis for cheaper flights.
  • Few direct flights and high fares
    I remember in 2002 I bought a ticked round trip to berlin Germany and back for $583..now is well over $1400..hotel,car and food..more then $5000 for 2 weeks..yes it got to expensive.
  • Flying is a hassle
    I've been flying much less because I don't like the security scans. I'll avoid them by either driving, or simply not going. I believe that they should spend less time trying to keep shampoo bottles and nail clippers off of the airplanes, and more time trying to keep terrorists off of the airplanes. Israel has been doing this successfully for years, and will be the first to tell you that the American system is BS. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1336571/Terrorism-Can-really-stop-bomber-asking-Are-terrorist.html
  • Hummmmm wonder why?
    Posted: Mar 19, 2012 4:18 PM EDT The developments come as the IAA considers changes to the panel's travel policy after records showed three top airport officials spent more than $67,000 last year on travel in the U.S. and abroad. A report found that Clark spent nearly half of the $67,000 on trips that included a $10,000 meeting in Zurich and $8,300 to attend an airport conference in Morocco. Clark says many of the trips were related to his role with the industry's key trade group, Airports Council International. An investigation by WTHR in 2010 revealed that Clark, who earned $270,000 a year at the time, took 31 business trips in his first 15 months on the job, racking up $45,000 in travel expenses, several of which were submitted months after he traveled. Maybe someone should be paying attention to getting more direct flights (we can) and less on their pleasure.
  • No Flights
    I look at other airports for travel. Indy's flight options have been reduced drastically making it hard to get anywhere. Its terrible! If we want to make this a first class city, it needs to be easy to get in and out of
  • ummm
    You don't english well, do you?
  • Bart Peterson's Plan
    Yet Bart Peterson insisted that his plan continue. The point of his plan was to destroy the republican administration in Wayne Township, and move the businesses to Hendricks County. Some say Peterson made $$millions for his parent's company for that.
  • wrong to build new,reopen old airport before too late
    the choice to build the new airport was wrong with those against building it noted all the current failures.it was a lessor building garanteed to cost.i say save the old airport as proof of error or destroy it to hide facts.in simple me i noticed less bathrooms were built with lines runing out into the walk ways (just like the indy sports domes)less seating areas,less food services,about one fourth less drive up passenger curb space for pickup drop off of passengers in new airport means factually less ,total failure in out lot parking if compared to old set up, the construction style of the old airport was strong protective reinforced concrete vers a new plate glass building tin metal building that will be dangerous suffering damage in a say a tornado!,the old airport was so more built to be more efficent in space usage and in cost for utilities,the pretty nightmare is the plan is opposite to utilities eff cost,so just look the massive loss of wasted ceiling heights in which all rush past in haste since no seating no food but some bathrooms are stuck here (away from all points of usage)so no reason to be but grand illusion for the passengers to pass to their smaller lessor spaces, so really all had to be planned for less of everything but higher cost,my term a funnel effect like a choke point mentality like what we see in todays political ills. interesting cost factor of my regular trips east towards DC with $100 no longer the same with rates including parking fees with one hour flights time added for commutes and airport prep time makes a 4hour time factor a big rush like effect ++==when compared now to gas with a 7 hour drive one hour great meal service possible,is then a 3hour varible.an aspect what is time aspect which is possible now to be in total communication mode for business or a total travel see america yourself without the hidden health dangers of jet travel (a fact many flying suffer blood clot issues the following week (or death?) or say the decompression effects the body suffers yea call it jet lag,i wrote years ago about the retail bag of potatoe chips to be used as pressure guage to see hidden decompression aspects-note not the airline chips as not air tight but bags have holes to release air pressure!wooo weeee, what about flying thru varible ozone holes or maybe lessor feilds of ozone and being zapped with what rays is true just look at nasa web sights?.... anyways the issue is a mess or complicated,put some plastic on all the glass walls now to save big money(i read the temp reading of walls roof ceilings) or move back to old airport to save butt (i would love to lease it as budget savings airport!),or get the teaparty out to the rescue but which side would they take? surely you need a different thinking mode or a scam is in the works is scarey future.
    • It's the economy
      People are afraid to spend whatever money they have on vacations, and businesses are cutting back on travel. Plus, to be fair, Indianapolis lost it's biggest carrier (ATA) before the new airport even opened.
    • International flights
      Introduce at least one or two international flights to Europe. This will certainly bring in some traffic.
      • Ghost Airport
        Every time I'm at the airport, albeit usually at evening, it looks like a ghost town. Now Indy can boast of a new airport terminal, new JW Marriott(and Conrad) and the AAR aircraft maintenance hub. Was the new terminal and hotel all for show to get a (any more in the foreseeable future?)Super Bowl? Did Indy get too big for it's britches? Look at Chicago, it just keeps upgrading it's dinosaur (O'Hare). Thank goodness for FedEx and Republic Airways! If it wasn't for them, there really would be tumbleweed rolling around on runway 32L.
      • Few direct flights and high fares
        HMMM..Not surprised about the lower Indy boardings. Direct flights out of Indy are regretably scarce and the connecting flights are expensive with poor schedules. We routinely drive to O'Hare or Cincinatti and get cheap direct flights with better schedules....
        • Concern
          This report is even more of a concern in light of the fact that the Super bowl and all of the related and predicted uptick in passenger traffic anticipated by this event. And yes I understand that some came on private jets. My experience personally was I almost missed a flight waiting 25 minutes for a shuttle in the remote lots and the main lot I can not afford after buying an airline ticket. My last flight I took the bus from downtown.. I like the airport and want it to succeed......direct affordable flights....express buses with a few stops from downtown and lower airport parking rates. Thanks
        • less flights
          Positive of this is that it's been a breeze getting through security. Negative is having less flight options. Delta cancelled their direct to DCA so we've had to move some our staff to Washington. Kudos for adding recharging stations though. Much needed.
        • parking
          If airport is really serious about increasing parking revenue,lower the prices and more people will use lots. More cars ar lower rate = higher income. Increase shuttles probably won't make any difference.
        • Harder to do business
          All our clients are in either ny, oh, ca, or wa. Getting there is getting tougher, and while its not the only reason, it's been a factor in moving hunks of our staff to the west coast.

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        1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

        2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

        3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

        4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

        5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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